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tv   Unnatural Selection in China  Al Jazeera  May 20, 2014 1:30pm-2:01pm EDT

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watching al jazeera america. 101 east is next. and a reminder for updates throughout the day all you have to do is go to aljazeera.com, where the news continues 24 hours aday, 7 days a week, non-stop. china's one child policy has quoted controversy, from accusations of the state confiscating children, to forced abortions. today it is being blamed for a declining fertility rate and a major gender imbalance with more than 30 million men, to women by 2020.
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i'm steve chow on this edition of 101 east, we ask if the days of china's one child polices is coming to an end. >> for 21-month-old lin jiahe, saturdays begins in with a menagerie of toys... ...under a shower of attention. >> little jiahe is an only child. he holds the most precious place in the household, with parents and grandparents catering to his every whim... and documenting his every move. >> "i am constantly writing to my son, telling him my thoughts and feelings in micro-blogs or postcards, which he will see in the future. i'm writing down the problems i have encountered and the way i have
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found to tackle them in the hope that they will be useful to my son when he grows up." >> jiahe and his parents are typical of the three-person nuclear family that has emerged in china in the last three decades, a result of the country's controversial family planning practice - commonly called the one-child policy. he yin and her husband lin zhongjie know just how it feels to be single children. they both grew up in one-child households, and they wonder if that's the best environment for their son. "one obvious feature of our generation is a strong sense of loneliness... most of us were growing grew up without the company of siblings or cousins which results in some flaws in interpersonal communication and sense of responsibility." >> but unlike their parents, they have a choice. shanghai and some other cities and provinces have slightly relaxed the rules to allow parents who are
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both only children to have two of their own. "as both my wife and i are the only child of our respective families... we are entitled to have two kids. but we are hesitating about this, for because we will face greater pressure to raise another child, which costs a large sum amount of money and energy. >> if we have two kids, perhaps we can create a more favorable living better environment for the development of their personalities. they'll tend to be healthier psychologically. and when my husband and i are getting get old and can't keep pace with the times, the two kids can help each other by discussing problems and offering valuable suggestions. they can trust each other to help them to pull through." with or without a sibling, jiahe will grow up in a china with a very different social fabric than his predecessors. ...one te new obstacles for making a living, finding a spouse, and supporting his family. despite its nickname, the one child policy does not limit every chinese family to only one
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child. in rural areas, where many families have traditionally favored sons, parents whose first child is a girl may be allowed to have a second child. and members of ethnic minorities are usually free to have two children, or sometimes even more. but after thirty years, the policy has led to a stark dramatic shift in china's population - reducing the birth rate, but leaving a steadily (rapidly?) society to depend on a shrinking young generation made up of many far more men than women. >> "the decline of our population size means less pressure on our economic development environment and resources. and it has many positive influences. (but) though while china has benefited from the policy, it will have to pay for it. the policy has cost china much, and from a long term perspective the problems it has brought about will have quite severe consequences." >> supporters claim that since it went into effect in 1980, china's family planning policy
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has prevented some 400 million births. and that without it, the country would now be reeling with more than 1.7 billion people. but critics argue that parents were already having significantly fewer children on their own, and say the policy has been an unnecessary hardship. >> "in 1970, the fertility rate was 5.8, nearly 6, meaning a woman at that time would give birth to 6 children in her lifetime. this was the peak of fertility in our history. but by 1980, the fertility rate had dropped below 3. before 1979, family planning was not enforced by the government. but the decrease occurred nonetheless." >> renowned demographer liang zhongtang was a strong supporter of china's family planning policy for two decades... until he came to believe it was causing more damage to society than good. >> "it has brought harm to many people. if it is not abandoned it will harm more people in the
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future. giving birth is a basic right. no one has the right to interfere with it, let alone a country and a government. the government must do everything to protect this basic right. it has no reason to violate this right and force its family planning policy upon its citizens." among critics' main complaints it puts the power of enforcing the policy in the hands of local family planning officials, who often depend on reaching population targets for raises and promotion... a climate they say is ripe for exploitation and abuse... local governments have the authority to slap fines on parents who violate the policy in a range anywhere from four to ten times the average local annual salary. poorer families who cannot pay these sums may find themselves targeted by corrupt officials using illegal means to achieve their ends. "such a large amount of money cannot be paid once and for
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all for many families. so the local officials have to go to the families many times to get the fines. each time it would will be a conflict between the people and the government." >> zhou yinghe is a father living in exile. he has come to his brother's home in a town outside of guangzhou, to celebrate his brother's birthday. zhou refuses to return to his hometown in hunan province, where he says family planning officials have led a campaign of abuse in the name of the one child policy. >> "in order to implement the family planning policy, the government has sent people from the (criminal) underworld, together with the police and the family planning committee. the life of each household is disrupted. everybody lives in constant
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fear. we are very miserable. >> zhou and his first daughter zhou qing, help prepare the birthday meal. he is separated from his wife, and alone provides for his 10-year-old. zhou also has a second daughter, one he has not seen since she was seized by local officials eight years ago, and likely sold into adoption abroad. in 2003, when zhou was away working, family planning officials barged into the house where his mother was tending to the 3-month-old child. >> "they asked my mother for money as a fine for the birth of our second child. but my mother had no money, and my wife and i were out working. they asked my mother where this child came from. my mother was very afraid, so she dared not to admit the baby was ours. she told them that the baby was someone else's and that she was just looking after her for the moment. but they took the child
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away." when zhou learned what had happened, he pressed the local government for the return of his daughter. "i immediately reported it to both the county and municipal governments, but the officials there protected each other, saying: now that your child had has been taken, she has most likely been sent away (for adoption) already, and it's impossible to find her. they said nothing else, as if a child being abducted was reasonable, as if she was not my own child." >> zhou's daughter was one of at least 16 children that relatives say were taken by family planning officials in longhui county, hunan, in southern china. many are believed to have been sent to orphanages and adopted by families overseas, who sometimes paid thousands of dollars for the children. news of the seized babies prompted a government investigation. a dozen officials were dismissed from the party or removed from their posts. but investigators determined the worst accusations were unfounded, saying
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only that officials had lapsed in their duties, but that there was no evidence of children being seized and sold. "how can the government take away my child and claim it is not a crime? how can the government abuse its rights regardless of the laws? i just want to question them like this. is human trafficking allowed in china? is it legal in china for the people to be bullied? this is what i want to ask."
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>> in the wake of the scandal, local officials have tried to intimidate families to stay quiet. in an interview in hunan, zhou yinghe's mother said officials only want to cover up what happened. >> "every time i went to the department and asked for my granddaughter, they said they didn't know where she was. journalists came to my house to investigate this matter. after the journalists left (officials) threatened us that if the journalists exposed them and affected their interests, they would take revenge on us and we would be in great trouble." residents of longhui county say they have suffered for years at the hands of corrupt family planning officials. told of the arrival of journalists, more than a dozen parents and grandparents crowd into a small hostel.
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one after another, they share stories of forced abortions, sterilizations and beatings. in december 2008, yuan qingfeng was eight months pregnant with her third child, when officials hustled her off to the hospital, where doctors aborted her baby, then performed a tubal ligation. a week later, they dropped her off to wander home alone in one of the coldest winters on record. >> "they dumped her on the road. while she was lying on the ground, the blood ran to her shoes... we don't have any relatives living near where they had left her. no one knew that they had dropped her halfway, not even her parents. it was not until she was on the verge of death that somebody came across her on the road." the experience has left yuan physically and mentally traumatized. >> "when she came back to our house, she became so dumb that she didn't even know how to eat food any more.
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i can't go on living like this. i will ask for a solution from the family planning office or divorce her. i can't take care of the children on my own because i have to work. no one can help me because i have no family members still alive." >> in some cases, relatives of offending parents were the ones who paid the price. liu yong says his youngest brother - who didn't have any children - was severely beaten trying to bring food to the wife of his other brother, who had three children. liu says his brother later died of his injuries. residents here denounce the system as cruel and unfair. >> "for those who don't have much money, it is hard for them to have a second or third child, for the fine will make them return to poverty. for the rich there is no restriction on the number of the children they can have: the birth of four or even five children is also permitted. ...what they do is not to control the number of population but to squeeze money from people
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into their own pockets." back in guangdong, zhou toasts his brother's birthday with friends. but thoughts of what has happened to his missing daughter continue to haunt him. zhou says he will keep looking for her, even if that trail leads him to find her happily adopted by another family, in another country. >> "i would be overjoyed if i could see her. but i would let her to decide whether to stay there or not, because, after all, she has a complete adoptive family there. as her father, i will be much satisfied very happy to see her live in peace. if she wants to stay with me, i would feed her even if i were to beg for food. if not, i would feel satisfied just see her. in fact, my biggest dream is to see her. only then, can my heart rest, or else otherwise, i will never feel at ease for the rest of my life."
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>> chinese families, like those in other asian nations, have historically shown a preference for sons, who could carry on the family name and support the parents in old age. and the country has long seen a gender gap of more males born than females. but since the advent of the one child policy, this imbalance has grown more severe. nationally, there are now about 120 boys born for every 100 girls, and in the countryside, the gap is even wider. experts predict as many as 30 to 40 million chinese men alive today will fail to find a spouse. some experts blame the gap on sex-selective abortions, which are illegal in china, but widely practiced. others believe many families simply do not register first-born girls er first-born girls in hopes of having a second chance to have a boy. >> "it will affect the marriage of young people in the future. many men will not find a wife.
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moreover, even those who manage to get married will be much younger or older than their spouses. it will be detrimental to the harmony and stability of our society." >> in the remote, terraced mountains of yuhezhen, in china's southwest, the rift between males and females has reached extreme proportions. there are more than twice as many men here as women, with dozens of men holding little prospect for marriage. across china, more and more rural enclaves have lapsed into these so-called "bachelor villages" in the last decade... ...places where an abundance of men, mired in grinding poverty, has bred a sense of desperation. zhao zufa doubts he will find a wife. he is 45 years old, and lives at home to care for his widowed mother.
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his brother is also unmarried, and has moved away to find work. zhao fears he will likely spend the rest of his days a bachelor, tilling fields of corn and chinese cabbage. >> "my conditions do not allow me to go out to earn money, so i can't find a wife and do not have any children yet. and my family still lives in deep poverty." most single women have left the village in search of better- paying jobs in the cities. some men have left too, but many like zhao stay behind, fulfilling an obligation to tend to parents and property. "all the young girls have left home and work in shoe factories in zhejiang province so that they can send money home. they discover that place is better than our village so they get married there. -and don't come back. even when their parents are dying, they will only send back money and not come to say farewell."
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zhao says marriage in his village comes for a price. "if you want to marry a wife here, you have to prepare need about eight thousand dollars as dowry. but by the time you have earned that amount of money, you are already 50 or 60 years old and no one will marry you." >> once he was so desperate to find a spouse, he tried to buy one. "a friend of one of my relatives told me he would fix me a match and asked me for more than 600 dollars. ...i gave him that money and he found me a woman. but only a week later she ran away. after she ran away, i turned the dealer in to the police. i didn't get a wife and lost all my money." zhao's neighbor, yan hongshuang, is 34, but he, too expects to remain single. his 70-year-old father still works to support himself and his son. >> "what's the point of wanting a wife? i have nothing and no
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money, only two or three hundred kilograms of corn. i could can only earn 100 dollars at most each month." zhao and yan say they don't even bother to hope. their lives focus on surviving... zhao sells corn to provide for basic needs, like shoes and salt. occasionally, he takes a chicken to market for a small boost in his income. >> "i don't want to be duped again. right now i am penniless. i can't go out to find a job because no one will look after my mother for me. so i don't see any chance of getting a wife.
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urgency? only on al jazeera america "in major cities, the demands on potential mates are even higher. men are often are often expected to hold even higher
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degrees and to be able to afford an apartment and sometimes a car as a prerequisite for marriage. "i want to find someone successful. he needs to be responsible for his family. he also needs to have a certain foundation for his career. for example, i think he should earn more than i do. i don't really care about the height of a man. his salary should be enough to support a family. and i want to find someone who has a house when we get married." some parents are not leaving it to their only children to manage their own love-life. in shanghai's people's park, hundreds of parents and matchmakers gather each every weekend to swap critical details of their sons and daughters... including age height, salary, education... and even paper silhouettes. ...most of them are here without their children's knowledge. this unofficial matchmaking fair has grown so popular, it fills an entire corner of the
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park, and similar scenes have spread to other parks across the country. parents here seem determined to find a match, though few can claim much success. >> it is really hard, just like finding a needle in a vast sea. and you may not be able to meet the boy himself, most of the time you meet only the parents. so you can only take a look and try to figure out the situation yourself. it is hard to really solve your problem. china's one child policy has made a paticular impact on the industrial center of guangdong, where factories that once saw a limitless supply of workers are beginning to feel the pinch. >> "originally we planned to open four production lines. but in fact, since we failed to recruit enough workers during the year, we had to outsource our orders to other factories." >> a decline in birth rates has led to a drop in the supply of cheap labor.
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"the number of workers who meet their age requirement is decreasing at a faster rate than before. before, workers aged 15 to 25, even to 34, took up a relatively large percentage of the whole labor force. but in recent the last ten years, the percentage has dropped greatly dramatically. what's more, the demand of for workers in the coastal cities has not weakened; to the contrary, it has grown larger." >> guangdong's top family planning official has asked for a relaxing of the one-child policy, one of the first public calls for change among government leaders. but his request seems to have been ignored. the government says the family planning policy will remain in effect until at least 2015. >> "it's inevitable for china, which is right now has a low birthrate, to adjust its family planning policy. it may even be possible that china will encourage its people to give birth to more children, like some developed countries."
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>> supporters of changing the policy point to the success of a trial program that began in the 1980s, where some families were allowed to have more than one child. in yicheng, in northern shanxi province, families can have a second child if they wait six years after the birth of their first. despite the looser rules, the population is growing slower in yicheng than the province as a whole. and the ratio between newborn boys and girls stands near the worldwide average. >> "in my opinion, couples can have two children. this can solve several problems. first, it can still control population growth... the ratio between senior citizens and the work force will be reasonable and balanced. the aging will not be so fast. meanwhile, we can have a certain amount of labor to guarantee the smooth development of the economy. but for now, the aging population is a growing problem.
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researchers estimate that by 2025, one in five chinese in urban areas will be over 60, and that by 2050, that age group will amount increase to 30 percent of the population. the policy has led to what is called the "4-2-1 problem," where one child will be responsible for two parents, and four grandparents. for now, this not an issue for he yin and lin zhongjie, whose parents are still healthy and mobile. but down the road, in the future, this may change. >> "if all four of our elders run into trouble, and it requires both my husband and i to handle it, i'm afraid i will get frantic and we will be fully occupied. >> but the biggest pressure might one day fall on lin jiahe, who may find himself caring for the entire family. >> "above all, he needs a good
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wife. then, in the future, when the population is ageing, it will be an inevitable trend to hire care services. also, i think there will be more jobs, professionals or relevant facilities to respond to this. perhaps the government or market will provide these services. it is bound to happen, a big responsibility that awaits china's youngest generation will come of age in an ever changing society.
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